Mary Cholmondeley
Mary Cholmondeley

Chapter 1
"Le vent qui vient ˆ travers la montagne M'a rendu fou!" -- Victor Hugo
Annette leaned against the low parapet and looked steadfastly at the
water, so steadfastly that all the brilliant, newly-washed,
tree-besprinkled city of Paris, lying spread before her, cleft by the wide
river with its many bridges, was invisible to her. She saw nothing but
the Seine, so tranquil yesterday, and to-day chafing beneath its bridges
and licking ominously round their great stone supports--because there
had been rain the day before.
The Seine was the only angry, sinister element in the suave September
sunshine, and perhaps that was why Annette's eyes had been first drawn
to it. She also was angry, with the deep, still anger which invades once
or twice in a lifetime placid, gentle-tempered people.
Her dark eyes under their long curled lashes looked down over the
stone bastion of the Pont Neuf at a yellow eddy just below her. They
were beautiful eyes, limpid, deep, with a certain tranquil mystery in
them. But there was no mystery in them at this moment. They were
fixed, dilated, desperate.
Annette was twenty-one, but she looked much younger, owing to a
certain slowness of development, an immaturity of mind and body. She
reminded one not of an opening flower, but of a big, loose-limbed colt,
ungainly still, but every line promising symmetry and grace to come.

She was not quite beautiful yet, but that clearly was also still to come,
when life should have had time to erase a certain ruminative stolidity
from her fine, still countenance. One felt that in her schoolroom days
she must have been often tartly desired not to "moon." She gave the
impression of not having wholly emerged from the chrysalis, and her
bewildered face, the face of a dreamer, wore a strained expression, as if
some cruel hand had mockingly rent asunder the veils behind which her
life had been moving and growing so far, and had thrust her, cold and
shuddering, with unready wings, into a world for which she was not
fully equipped.
And Annette, pale gentle Annette, standing on the threshold of life,
unconsciously clutching an umbrella and a little handbag, was actually
thinking of throwing herself into the water!
Not here, of course, but lower down, perhaps near St. Germains. No,
not St. Germains,--there were too many people there,--but Melun,
where the Seine was fringed thick with reeds and rushes, where in the
dusk a determined woman might wade out from the bank till the current
took her.
The remembrance of a certain expedition to Melun rose suddenly
before her. In a kind of anguish she saw again its little red and white
houses, sprinkled on the slope of its low hill, and the river below
winding between its willows and poplars, amid meadows of buttercups,
scattered with great posies of maythorn. She and he had sat together
under one of the may trees, and Mariette, poor Mariette, with Antoine
at her feet, had sat under another close at hand. And Mariette had sung
in her thin, reedy voice the song with its ever-recurring refrain--
"Le vent qui vient ˆ travers la montagne
M'a rendra fou, oui, me rendra fou."
Annette shuddered and then was still.
It must have been a very deep wound, inflicted with a jagged
instrument, which had brought her to this pass, which had lit this stony

defiance in her soft eyes. For though it was evident that she had
rebelled against life, it was equally evident that she was not of the
egotistic temperament of those who rebel or cavil, or are discontented.
She looked equable, feminine, the kind of woman who would take life
easily, bend to it naturally,
"As the grass grows on the weirs";
who might, indeed, become a tigress in defence of her young, but then
what woman would not?
But it is not only in defence of its babes of flesh and blood that the
protective fierceness of woman can be aroused. There are spiritual
children, ideals, illusions, romantic beliefs in others, the cold-blooded
murder of which arouses the tigress in some women. Perhaps it had
been so with Annette. For the instinct to rend and tear was upon her,
and it had turned savagely against herself.
Strange how in youth our first crushing defeat in the experiment of
living brings with it the temptation of suicide! Did we then imagine, in
spite of all we saw going on round us, that life was to be easy for us,
painless for us, joyful for us, so that the moment the iron enters our
soul we are so affronted that we say, "If this is life, we will have none
of it"?
Several passers-by had cast a backward glance at Annette. Presently
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